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LESSONS ON LISTENING

 by Barry Farber

  

You never know when youre going to meet someone whos going to turn out to be a major influence in your life. It could be someone sitting next to you on an airplane, or someone you meet at a party at your next door neighbors. For me, it all began at a business meeting when I met Tony Wainwright, chairman of a $2.5 billion corporation, author, playwright, incredible philanthropist, and one of the worlds foremost salespeople. He became my greatest mentor and one of my best friends.

Tony passed away not long ago. I miss him every day. Shortly after he died, I began to wonder, what set him apart from other people who tried to do what he did and failed? As I thought about his life not just his sales life but about everything he did I realized that what made him great was his uncanny ability to listen. He listened, truly listened, to everyone he met. Id like to pass on a few of his secrets of listening to you:

 

            When you had a conversation with Tony, he made you feel as if your ideas were worth their weight in gold (not that everything you said was right if you were on the wrong track, he would let you know). But he would make you feel special, as if you were the most important appointment he had in his life, and his only purpose was to find out what was on your mind. Then hed tell you how you could make your ideas twenty times larger than anything youd conceived. His belief in you was so strong you had to believe it too. Thats what made him such a great salesperson: he sold you on yourself.

 

            Tony Wainwright was a passionate man. In fact, his passion for life kept him going when he should have been dead ten times over. Youd think that a man like that would want to speak about himself and his accomplishments. In fact, it was just the opposite. You could never have a conversation with him that focused solely on work. At some point, hed simply stop and say, "Whats going on with you?" He really wanted to know. It was one of the greatest lessons he ever taught me. I am a passionate person as well, and early on, Id be so excited about my product or project that Id want to "sell" it to everyone. Now, I sit back and observe. I let the other person talk, find out as much as I can, and make a calm, informed decision about whether this is a good business move for all parties involved. I get to know people in ways I would have totally missed before Tony came into my life.

 

            Tony Wainwright perfected the art of follow-up. For most of his life, he wrote up to fifty letters a day (not emails, letters). Each one contained just a few sentences, with an idea hed had about a project youd mentioned, or an article from a newspaper with a note that said, "FYI I read this and thought it would interest you." It might relate to a something you were working on, but more often than not it would be about something he knew youd like or something youd spoken about months earlier. Thats when you really knew hed been listening to every word you said.

 

These are just a few of the things that made Tony Wainwright so successful, and why he had such an impact on so many people. Hes still influencing me; whenever Im in a situation Im not quite sure how to handle I ask myself, "What would Tony tell me to do now?" The answer comes to me in a flash and I can hear his voice whisper in my ear: "Listen," he would say, "Just listen."

    

 Barry Farber is rated as one of the top 26 speakers of the year by Successful Meetings Magazine based on his message, delivery, and ability to impact diverse groups. He is the author of 11 books on sales, management, and motivation; a black belt weapons expert; an entrepreneur and marketer of innovative products; and a television host and producer. He is a regular guest on QVC. To learn more, visit www.barryfarber.com or email him with any comments or questions at barry@barryfarber.com. Barry will be a steady contributor to the ASN Learning Annex.

 

 

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Last modified: September 01, 2007